Review Date: December 31, 2013
Released by: Dark Vision
Release date: N/A
Fullscreen 1.33| 16x9: No
Note: Since the film has no proper commercial release and the copy of this film I reviewed was a bootleg, I will forgo the usual technical evaluation, except to say the audio and video quality is only slightly better than the quality of the feature itself.
After Howling VI
’s lukewarm commercial reception the group of investors behind the lycanthropic series decided that it was time to quit while they were ahead. Although profitable, it’s was clear from the diminishing returns that interest in the series was beginning to wane and an increasingly competitive DTV/cable market would only make it more difficult to maintain the series’ profitability. One man, however, would not be deterred from continuing the series: Howling 4
co-producer and scribe, Clive Turner. His idea: he would self-finance another Howling sequel, a final film that would pull together the disparate plot threads of Howlings 4
and create a shared continuity in a film he would write, direct, edit, produce and star in. Whether he smoothed talked the investors or simply wore them down I don’t know but, at any rate, he was given the right to use the Howling name and footage from the last three films in the series. Armed with a quickly penned script and $250,000 of his own money, Turner set out to create a fitting swan song for the series he’d been involved with for almost a decade. What he actually created was a laughable joke of a movie, a pathetic and insipid waste of celluloid so colossally awful that after its initial video release, New Line threw it in a vault and hoped everybody would forget it existed. If the series had any shred of credibility or dignity left after part VI
, Howling: New Moon Rising
sure wiped its ass with it and flushed it down the toilet. The magnitude of wretchedness on display in New Moon Rising
is so mind-boggling that the English language may be inadequate to convey the depths of its awfulness. But, as always, I’ll give it a go.
In the desert, a couple of rustic rubes have discovered a partially uncovered skeleton wearing a wig. The Detective (John Ramsden
) assigned to investigate the case is at a loss until a mysterious priest, Father John (John Huff
) comes to visit him at his office. In the slowest, most tedious manner possible, as if there’s any possibility of mystery at all, the priest relates the events of the last three films…including busting out a VHS copy of part six under the guise of examining “home video taken at the circus.” In an amazing bit of deductive reasoning, the Detective (he’s never given a name) determines that not only was the partially buried, almost completely desiccated skeleton killed by a wolf, but the wolf in question stood well over six feet tall and walked upright on two legs. Despite his amazing deductive prowess he’s unable to take the next leap of logic and conclude that a werewolf was responsible for the attack, though, and scoffs at the idea when the priest suggests it. This, of course, means that this torturous plotline is allowed to stretch out the entire length of the movie.
Concurrently, Aussie biker Ted (Clive Turner
) rolls into nearby Barstow (Texas? They never say, though the country music motif would suggest so). He’s ostensibly looking for work and a place to stay, and finds both at a roadside honkytonk, Pioneertown Palace, run by Pappy (Claude 'Pappy' Allen
) and Harriet (Harriet Allen
). It’s hinted very early on that Ted is there for some ulterior motive but, instead of developing that, we‘re treated to long montages of him sweeping the bar, drinking and telling corny jokes with the locals and a lot of bad country music. Ted strikes up a romance with a local woman (honestly, I have no idea what this character’s name is or who played her, but I’m reasonably sure she’s blonde), though the wounded woman keeps him at arm’s length, preventing even the most minor of interesting plotlines from developing.
An ex-con (I’m not sure he’s ever referred to as anything other than “him,” or “that guy” so, sorry “that guy” for not giving you the credit you deserve. Actually, now that I think about it, you’re welcome), that gets drunk and tries to start trouble disappears almost immediately after leaving the bar and the suspicious locals turn their eyes towards Ted. Luckily, before any sort of suspense or mystery is about to be established, we learn that although Ted was not exactly upfront about his reasons for coming to Barstow, he is not a murderer or a werewolf. Oh, the film does contain a werewolf, though one so ineptly executed it mercifully appears for a single scene. The torturous dialogue that tries to explain away the preceding 90 minutes would be both confusing and insulting if the film had been able to inspire an even rudimentary level of interest, but I’ve watched weather patterns with more suspense and genuine interest than Howling: New Moon Rising is ever able to inspire.
Fuck’s sake, what a joke this movie is.
I can see how, on paper, this might’ve seemed like a good idea. Although we’ve become accustomed to continuity warping franchises like Saw
and Paranormal Activity
, the idea of a sequel retconning previous films in a series was a relatively novel one in the mid-1990s. Comic books had been doing these sort of narrative barrel rolls for decades but the high risk associated with moviemaking made this approach unfeasible. If it was going to be done, it’s no surprise that it was tried out on a no-budget production like this. I also have no doubt that Turner’s original script included ideas and scenes that did a far better job of pulling the last few films together into a single narrative. Really, I do. If his on screen persona is any indication, he seems like a pretty affable guy and I bear him no ill will. But, in trying to make Howling: New Moon Rising
, he clearly bit off far more than he could chew and his lackluster writing ability, his inexperience behind the camera and his lack of resources defeated his ambitions before a single frame was shot. This is a god-awful picture that could not have turned out any other way.
What’s so bad about New Moon Rising
? Jesus, where do I start? How about
: everything? As in, there’s not a single element of this film, be it the acting, writing, score, cinematography, editing or special effects that is up to par. In fact, they’re not even in the same building as up to par. Or the same county. But, let’s break it down a bit.
Firstly, the acting. In this area, I’m actually tempted to give New Moon Rising
a pass. Well, not the movie itself, but the performers in it. They are very clearly not trained actors, but local people lured into working for next to nothing by the prospect of being in a “real” movie. They never should have been in front of the camera while it was rolling and their failure hangs around Turner’s neck, and his neck alone. Other than Turner and brief cameos from Romy Windsor and Elizabeth She, none of the cast has any prior or subsequent acting credits to their name. It’s obvious Turner had great affection for these people since he lavishes even the most minor characters with an obscene amount of screen time - or maybe he just needed to deliver a 90 minute movie to secure distribution deal.
You know when people describe the make-up in a film as being “like a guy in a Halloween mask,” and you just nod because you know that the description is just hyperbole? Well, in this instance, there’s no hyperbole. In New Moon
’s single scene of werewolf action not pilfered from previous films, we are treated to a stunt man in a rubber mask. Other than that, the movie is entirely bloodless. What’s even worse than all the werewolf action happening off screen is that we don’t even get to see the aftermath: not even the wolf tracks or a single scrap of bloody clothing.
And then, there’s the editing: to say it’s awkward would be a charitable praise. This is the most jarringly assembled movie I’ve watched in a long, long while. Conversations that seem to have a point are cut off mid-sentence and we’re dropped into another scene in another location with other actors in a different conversation that is, again, mid-sentence. Lines of dialogue I’m guessing are supposed to be funny are clipped short with no laugh beat or reaction shot to signal their purpose. I get the distinct sense that Turner kinda shot this thing by the seat of his pants and then tried to shape the story in the editing room. A lot of the sort basic coverage you’d expect from a competent director: reaction shots, inserts, things like that, are almost entirely absent. Instead we get single takes of medium shots that are very clearly ADR’d with dialogue trying to plug the narrative holes. There isn’t really any excuse for this sort of nonsense, either: when he set out to make New Moon Rising
, Turner had written and produced two films. He should have at least a very basic understanding how and why films work the way they do. Hell, most people who watch movies have an instinctual sense of how to properly assemble a scene so that it serves a purpose, be it further the story or develop the characters within it. Considering that he’s an experienced, if not accomplished, screenwriter it’s almost surrealistic how little Clive Turner seems to understand visual storytelling.
A modern frontier town with a country and western vibe is not a terrible milieu in which to set a werewolf film. Certainly, there’s a kind of rustic beauty in the scrubby desert along with geographic isolation that could make a desert town a fun setting for a werewolf story. Or, even a “who killed Laura Palmer” type mystery, if that’s the route Turner had chosen to go. See, that’s probably what’s most frustrating about New Moon Rising
: it’s loaded with scraps of ideas that, while not fantastic, should have been passably interesting. Even with the limited resources put into the film there’s no reason it should have turned out this fucking awful.
What I don’t get is, why would anybody bother releasing this, ever? It’s not just the ineptitude of the production, but the absence of any single selling point, at all. There’s no blood or gore, action, suspense, mystery, nudity, or any of the base bullet points that bottom of the barrel dreck like this usually uses to sell itself. New Moon Rising
doesn’t even have the good sense to steal what little werewolf action there was in the last few films. This is a movie that would give Silent Night Deadly Night 2
a self-esteem boost… if Silent Night Deadly Night 2
were able to watch other movies, or care about its own quality in relation to those movies. Which it can’t. So, I guess what I’m saying is that Howling: New Moon Rising
is an utterly worthless waste of time.
There’s always a risk when reviewing something this dreadful that you’re going to make somebody curious. It’s so easy to plant that nagging doubt: “is it really as awful as he says?” Which is inevitably followed by the perverse desire to find out. Let me save you the trouble. New Moon Rising
is not worth seeking out, not only because it’s bad, but because it’s boring as hell. The Howling
series took an immediate and precipitous drop in quality after Joe Dante’s brilliant original, so it was hardly a quality series to begin with, but New Moon Rising
still manages to insult and sully the name of one of the worst franchises in horror history. And yet, it still manages to not have a single frame in the entire movie that’s worth a second of your time. Crack an egg into the sink and then spend ninety minutes trying to glue the shell back together and you’ll will have spent your time with more good taste than watching Howling: New Moon Rising
would demonstrate. This is seriously unwatchable dreck that should stay on permanent moratorium.
Movie - F
Image Quality - N/A
Sound - N/A
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Audio
- Greek subtitles